July. 2024
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Sugar Sector Brings $500 Million in Spending to U.S.

For each of the past five years, Americans have consumed more than 11 million metric tons of sugar, a figure that has more or less held steady since about 2019. Sugar, therefore, represents a solid, stable market in the U.S., and the country's sugar refiners are underway not only with grassroot projects, but also capital projects at existing plants and several maintenance programs.

Two grassroot sugar plants are expected to begin construction soon. Sucro Limited (Coral Gables, Florida) will site a new refinery at its existing location in the University Park area of Chicago. The 50,000-square-foot facility will provide 350,000 metric tons per year of refined sugar products, with a focus on specialty sugar capabilities, including large grain crystals used in specialty foods and confectionery. It also will be home to an integrated brown sugar line, specialty liquid production and will be able to refine organic sugar.

Sucro Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Taylor said, “Our new Chicago refinery will add much-needed domestic refinery capacity to address the demand for refined sugar and reduce the market's reliance on imports. The refinery's primary focus will be higher value specialty sugar products which are in high demand from U.S. food processors and manufacturers.” According to Sucro, the location represents the most inland cane sugar refinery in the U.S., providing a strong advantage to serve the Midwestern market in the U.S. Subscribers to Industrial Info's Global Market Intelligence (GMI) Food & Beverage Project Database can learn more by viewing the project report.

Another grassroot plant is planned for the site of the former Majestic Star Hotel & Casino in Gary, Indiana. Indiana Sugars Incorporated (Gary) is getting started on demolishing the existing structures and over the course of three construction phases will build a powdered sugar factory, including a warehouse in the final stage. The new facility will allow Indiana Sugars to relocate operations from its existing site in Gary. While Phase I construction is expected to be completed in 2025, the end of Phase III, which includes a storage warehouse, isn't expected until 2027. Subscribers to Industrial Info's GMI Project Database can learn more by viewing the related project reports.

Other sugar refiners are expanding their operations to both increase production and provide greater variety in their range of products. Louisiana Sugar Refining LLC (LSR) (Gramercy, Louisiana) is doing both with the expansion of its Gramercy mill. The expansion includes infrastructure enhancements to increase refinery capacity by up to 50% and will allow the production of more value-added products such as powdered and large-grain sugars. In addition, LSR is adding more rail tracks and expanding its loadout operations to move product faster and more efficiently. The work is expected to boost the refinery's capabilities from 1 million pounds of raw sugar per year to 1.5 million tons, making it one of the largest refineries in the U.S. Work has been underway since last year and is expected to wrap up in 2025. Subscribers can learn more by viewing the project report.

While the projects discussed to this point have been for cane sugar refineries, there's another segment of the U.S. market also drawing activity: sugar beet processing. While sugar derived from cane and beets is chemically identical, a major difference between the two sources of sugar involves consumer choice. While most of the sugar beets in the U.S. are genetically modified organisms (GMOs), according to Indiana Sugars, cane sugar is non-GMO. Although beet-derived sugar can be slightly cheaper to produce than sugar from cane, many consumers are seeking non-GMO foods and sourcing out foods grown organically, which sugar cane allows.

Several companies are upgrading their beet sugar mills. One of the largest of these projects is set to kick off next year at a plant in Drayton, North Dakota. American Crystal Sugar Company (Moorhead, Minnesota) will both upgrade an existing diffuser and construct a new one at its 1.8 million-ton-per-year beet sugar mill.

The diffuser is one of the primary stages in the beet sugar-production process. Sugar beets are washed and cut into thin strips called cossettes. In the diffuser, a countercurrent flow of hot water extracts the sugar from the cossettes, attempting to obtain the maximum amount of sugar with minimum water. This liquid is then purified and put through a series of evaporators before entering the crystallization process. American Crystal Sugar will upgrade an existing 100-foot tower diffuser and construct a new 120-foot tower to join the existing equipment. The work is expected to be completed toward the end of next summer. American Crystal Sugar also will add a new dryer to the plant, which is expected to be completed toward the end of next year. Subscribers can learn more by viewing the reports on the evaporator and dryer projects.

Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative (SMBDC) (Renville, Minnesota) is underway with a similar project involving evaporators at its plant in Renville. In the evaporation process, the sugar juice is heated with steam to evaporate the natural water and then filtered again, concentrating it into a dark syrup before crystallization. Similarly to American Crystal Sugar, SMBDC is both upgrading an existing evaporator and constructing new units. The two new evaporator additions will cover 50,000 square feet and 75,000 square feet. The project is expected to be completed in the coming months. Subscribers can learn more by viewing the project report.

One of the final steps in the sugar-making process is centrifuging. After the sugar syrup emerges from the evaporation process, it is boiled and seeded with sugar crystals to start the crystallization process, forming a mixture of sugar crystals and molasses. The sugar crystals are separated from the molasses in a centrifuge, and in the case of beet sugar, emerge as 99.9% pure white sugar. Amalgamated Sugar Company LLC (Boise, Idaho) this summer plans to begin dismantling and replacing five old centrifugal machines with new equipment at its 19,000-ton-day beet sugar mill in Paul, Idaho. The project is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Subscribers can click here to learn more.

In addition to these capital projects, Industrial Info is tracking more than $85 million of maintenance occurring at U.S. sugar mills this year. Subscribers can click here for a full list.

Subscribers to Industrial Info's GMI Database can click here to view reports for all of the projects discussed in this article and click here for the related plant profiles.